Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Jock

I've survived and we were very thankful at the end of the 105km that we hadn't entered the 150 as we would have been woefully under prepared. We left johannesburg at about 14:00 on friday afternoon and had a rather uneventful drive down to nelspruit other than my tyre pressure warning going on for what appears to have been nothing. A few anxious moments before we crawled into a garage only to find that there wasn't actually anything really wrong so I don't know why the warning went off.

Arrived at Conifer Cottages and checked in and spoke to Jason and Cathy who by the time we had arrived had only just left so they were expecting to get to Nelspruit at about 23:00 so we went to bed. Had a quick shuftie over my bike and I was horrified at the state of the brakes not to mention the tires - I think a major service is in order when I get back to Johannesburg.

The next morning we were up and going at 04:30 and it was surprisingly warm or so we thought. By the time we were at the start at BergVlam highschool which translates to burning mountains it was decidedly freezing. The event seems to have got smaller since last year but then we were only doing the 105km so we couldn't really compare since we did the 150km last year.

The organisation wasn't so great and it was the little necessities of life like toilet paper that had everyone getting tense. Having been to the army where toilet paper or the lack of it is a daily reality I was very used to this. Loads of jokes about how to only use one square so as to conserve the white gold as much as possible. Somehow a youngster, he must have been a local, was spotted with a whole roll and we tried to get him but cycling shoes are not conducive to running and dive tackling so he got away. Eventually we managed to beg some of the white stuff and do our thing but it's not the right way to start of a race - really it isn't. Note to self - pack some bogroll next time.

The race didn't start of well for us because I managed to miss the timing matt which is not an easy thing to do so I had to circle around and go over it again which meant that jason was far ahead and I hadn't even started. Fortunately the first couple of km's are in town and they don't allow you to race so I managed to catch up with him quite easily. As we headed out the bunch started to pull together and it was very pleasant if a bit chilly and we were ready at the bottom of boulders for a good work out. Boulders would rate as a category 2 climb in the tour de france which barely rates an honourable mention by the commentators but it is still a pretty impressive climb of 6.5km at 6.8% gradient. Managed to keep the pedals going smoothly but I didn't dare look at my heart rate monitor. We overtook a number of riders but didn't have a lot coming past us so we were pretty happy with our climb and going down the otherside was great fun. About 1/2 way down we were overtaken by two riders going at breakneck speed with a car following them which really messed around with everyone else's lines around the corners and with the steep drops over the hairpin bends - messing around with one's lines is not something one wants to do. Turned right at the bottom at kaapmuiden and straight into a headwind. From kaapmuiden it is a 60km climb up to barberton, there are a few downhills but basically you just climb and climb and climb. We formed a group which then took on a life of its own and we decided to drop out and then spent about 30 minutes picking up othe riders dropping out. At one stage we were a group of about 5 riders trying to catch the tail of another group of 5 riders just 300, 200, 100 and then 50m ahead and there we stayed. It felt like we could touch them they were so close but we just couldn't make it across. In one of my less than wise moves I tried to bridge the gap which I did bringing everyone with me and we joined at the bottom of the hill and as we joined they started to pull away again so there is nothing for it but to grit one's teeth and just push and hope that you have enough left. Once we were in the group of 10 people it was great and we rode together until about 10km from the end when the pace picked up a bit and we were dropped although we caught most of the rest of the group by the line as they were slowly dropped as well. Finished in 03:55 which doesn't sound like a good time for 105km but I'm very happy with it. The winner's time was something ridiculous like 02:36 which is just demoralising.

Back at the chalets we had an afternoon nap and some time just to relax before we went to 10 on Russel which is a popular Nelspruit restaurant. Great meal, made all the better for being ravenously hungry. One of the really great things about excessive exercise like racing is that the sleep you have that night is the best, the longest and deepest and definitely the most fantastic. You wake up in the morning feeling absolutely great.

Packed up and went to the Nelspruit Botanical gardens for breakfast which was very respectable before we bought the inevitable plants. Caron has found an ally in Jason so Cathy and I just waited patiently while they asked questions about what felt like every single plant in the nursery.

We took the long way home and went via Sabie, Lydenburg and Dullstroom before getting back onto the N4 bound for Johannesburg.

1 comment:

Jason du toit said...

I have to add some detail that Roland conveniently omitted in this Blog entry. After Kath and I arrived in Nelspruit at about 23:00, I spent the better part of an hour and a half tinkering with my bike to fine tune it so that Roland would pose no real threat to me during the race. (Secretly we do race against each other). Roland failed to mention that he told me that he would only be waking up at 5 am. I didn’t pay attention to the race start time. So I set my alarm for 5 am. I was rudely awakened by Roland’s loud banging on the front door of our chalet and then he had the cheek to ask me if I was ready to go. Now I never get ready for a race in half an hour. Getting ready for a race on the morning of a race is a bit of a ritual and takes me at least an hour. This was the first time that I had ever managed to achieve the feat of getting ready so quickly. I had this sneaky feeling that my previous years success in race was not going to be repeated today.
The start was bitterly cold. In actual fact a the first 50km were cold. I was dressed for a very warm winters day. At the start, I managed to get a substantial lead on Roland at which point I thought it would only be fair to wait for him as it was a long ride for him to be riding on his own. One thing I have to mention. Since Roland’s operation, he seems to have seriously gotten stronger and quicker. That performance enhancing drug issue comes to mind again.